World Cup misery for ex-Adidas workers
Indonesians are not immune to the World Cup excitement gripping the globe, except those who earn about $1 an hour to ensure big profits for its sportswear sponsors.
Around 200 unemployed workers from Tangerang, a city 25km west of Jakarta, marched on the German embassy this week to protest their treatment by Panarub Industries, a maker of Adidas shoes.
In 2012, they were among 1300 workers who took strike action to improve their 5000 rupiah ($0.46) hourly pay.
In response, Panarub offered to let them go, with a severance pay of 1.6 million rupiah.
Outraged, they refused and have been protesting every week since – not only to be reinstated, but for fair pay for others they say were bullied into returning to work.
Those workers now earn $1.40 an hour filling an order of Adidas Predator football boots destined for Australia.
They’re the black and white ones all over advertisements for the World Cup sponsor, which is reportedly counting on the global spotlight to boost its earnings above last year’s $2.4 billion.
In Australia, a pair of Predator boots costs about $240.
For the people who stand on the sweltering production line to make them, that’s a month’s wages, says union spokeswoman Kokom.
“We’re angry, we can’t take it anymore,” she told AAP.
“Adidas’ fame is a result of us and they don’t want to resolve the problems in Panarub.”
Kokom was one of the women who refused to accept Panarub’s meagre severance and claims she’s now been blacklisted by other factories in Tangerang for her activism.
Sari, who still works for the company, says union members face intimidation from supervisors in an already highly stressful workplace.
In January, there were 43 workers to make 140 shoes per hour. In May, there were 37 people to meet the same target.
With workers too frightened to organise, they are voiceless.
“It’s difficult to raise awareness of our working conditions when we’re in such a repressed situation,” she says.
Wednesday’s march halted traffic in Jakarta’s centre and included a pantomime where a giant shoe and soccer ball crushed workers.
Kokom doesn’t want a boycott of the brand; that would devastate hundreds of poor families.
But she wants people who buy Adidas to make the decision with full knowledge of the product’s background.
Panarub Industries did not respond to requests for comment.
But a spokeswoman for Adidas says the workers’ claims have been investigated and dismissed.
“To portray Panarub as anti-union does not take into consideration the fact that the main factory, which makes for Adidas, has three very active and vibrant trade unions,” she said.
“We have seen no evidence of victimisation, as has been alleged.
“Nor have we see any evidence of bullying to force workers to accept a severance payment.
“This allegation was raised with us previously; we investigated, interviewed workers and could find nothing to corroborate these claims.”